On the Move: Applying Visual Movement in Art

DeVos Center Wall Gallery, Pew Campus
July 9, 2021 - December 10, 2021

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When an artist creates a work of art, they often use visual movement. It adds excitement, drama, and direction. Movement is one of the basic principles of art and can be incredibly effective at drawing a viewer’s attention to a piece or guiding their eye through a composition. Within an individual piece, artists can also apply movement to a single component or object, or to the whole arrangement itself. An artist who adeptly makes use of this principle significantly improves the energy and cohesiveness of their piece.

One the Move – Applying Visual Movement in Art is an exhibition drawn from the Grand Valley State University’s permanent collection of art. It includes 25 works from 15 artists selected for their specific use of movement in their art. Many of these works are part of Grand Valley’s Print and Drawing Cabinet, which houses over 4,000 museum-quality works on paper. Read on to learn more about the Print and Drawing Cabinet.


GVSU DeVos Center hallway art gallery

DeVos Center Wall Gallery, GVSU Pew Campus, displaying the exhibition On the Move: Applying Visual Movement in Art

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About the GVSU Print and Drawing Cabinet

The GVSU Print and Drawing Cabinet is home to over 4,000 museum-quality works on paper. The Cabinet was created from several outstanding gifts of prints, drawings, and photographs. The first of these was made in 2001 by the English-born, Dutch artist Cyril Lixenberg and enhanced the following year by a Brooks family’s donation of 500 contemporary prints. Since then, the collection has grown through other gifts and acquisitions, including original broadsides by Mexican artist Jose Guadalupe Posada, and most recently, the donation of over 1,000 photographs from American photographer Douglas R. Gilbert.

Discover more at artgallery.gvsu.edu/online-collection.

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Click any image below to view it and additional information in the Art Collection database

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To achieve movement in a work, artists skillfully apply elements such as rhythm, line, color, and space in specific ways. Rhythm is created when shapes, colors, or lines are repeated in a pattern. Artists can also produce perspective and draw a viewer’s eye towards a distant point by gradually reducing the size of this rhythmic pattern. Dynamic use of individual lines also produces movement. If an artist uses a sweeping or angled line as opposed to a straight line, they imply movement of subject matter in their work. Similarly, dynamic use of color, often juxtaposed with a contrasting color, creates energy and 3-dimensional quality.

a skeleton wearing a hat and holding a spear riding a horse skeleton, surrounded by tons of little skeletons running on their hands and feet, some are being trampled by the horse

José Guadalupe Posada
Calavera de Don Quijote (Skull of Don Quijote)
Restrike print
8.5" x 11"


a grid of circles forming a three-dimensional sphere

Victor Vasarely
Zonder Titel (Untitled)
Date unknown
23" x 23"
The Cyril Lixenberg Collection of Contemporary Dutch Prints, a gift of the Brooks Family



Finally, an artist’s use of space, the proportion of shapes and their relationship, can produce movement. This is particularly noticeable when an artist places a subject where it only makes sense if it is moving, such as a person jumping in mid-air. Historically, artists have increasingly utilized ways to create visual movement in their artwork, often focusing on specific methods. Early 20th-century Italian artists launched the Futurism movement, which sought to capture the dynamism and energy of the modern world. Artists focused on dynamic lines and created abstracted shapes that reflected a preoccupation with speed and new technology. In the 1960s, Op Art or Optical Art became popularized with work that examined our eye's response to pattern and line, and the effect of highly contrasting colors. 

New technology, particularly the camera, also enables artists to present movement to the viewer. Images of a blurred subject matter capture motion and imply continued movement. And, as artists apply new methods and technologies to their creative process, they will continue to utilize the important principle of movement in their work.

a boy in a bathing suit running through a spray of water

Douglas Gilbert
New York, Brooklyn
Photographic Print
13.75" x 9"
The Douglas R. and Barbara E. Gilbert Collection

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July 9, 2021 - December 10, 2021

DeVos Center Wall Gallery
Richard M. DeVos Center, Building B
401 West Fulton Street
Grand Rapids, MI 49504

For directions and parking information visit www.gvsu.edu/maps.


For special accommodation, please call:
(616) 331-3638

For exhibition details and media inquires, please email:
Joel Zwart, Curator of Exhibitions

For learning and engagement opportunities, please email:
Amanda Rainey, UX/Learning Manager